Perhaps the best way to describe Dr. Lee and his St. Vincent de Paul Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic is to describe what he does not have. He serves a low income working population transitioning from an acute hospitalization. His clinic does not have an X-ray machine nor any radiology. He does not have a pharmacy. He does not have a lab nor could his patients afford much lab work. But what Dr. Lee does have is information through Health Current, Arizona’s health information exchange (HIE).
Dr. Lee is a man on a mission, trying as he says to make his patients “perfect” and then send them to where they need to be for ongoing care. The Clinic started to see patients in 1977, and the Clinic has come a long way from being what Dr. Lee describes as a “medical closet” to a comprehensive health center, supported by hundreds of volunteers.
Dr. Lee, who sees over two-thousand patients annually, says that “everything changed” when he chose to participate in the HIE. Dr. Lee’s clinic plays a vital role in transitioning patients from an acute hospitalization to other providers or settings. This transitional care is typically short-term and never beyond nine months.
An HIE participant now for more than a year, Dr. Lee says he could not be more
pleased. He uses the HIE’s patient portal to get the most current information on most of his patients, and he is currently reviewing other Health Current tools and services, such as Direct secure email.
Dr. Lee provided the example of a 43-year-old patient who came to the Clinic recently. She presented with a number of symptoms such as a severe headache, horrible stomach pains, loss of vision, and numbness in her feet. She had been hopping from emergency room to emergency room, trying to treat her diabetes herself since she did not have active health insurance and was taking a turn for the worse.
“By being able to access the HIE patient portal for all our patients, we are able to provide appropriate care and treat patients as they should be treated.” said Dr. Lee. The portal allows Dr. Lee to see the records on previous hospital visits and other information in the HIE. This can include information on previous emergency admissions, lab and radiology results, clinical notes and recent prescriptions.
Using the patient portal allowed Dr. Lee to treat his 43-year-old patient in the most efficient way possible. He explained he was able to rule out certain possible medical causes and focus on the core issue, which he determined ultimately was anxiety. Dr. Lee did not have or need sophisticated medical technology because he had the most current patient information through the HIE. By using the HIE portal, Dr. Lee said, not only was he able to save the patient three or four visits, but money as well.
By offering HIE services at no charge to community providers such as Dr. Lee, Health Current is contributing to the St. Vincent de Paul’s mission to “Sustainably increase the health and well-being of the community, by empowering those who have the greatest need, yet the least resources.”
“The HIE is changing the way we practice medicine, for the better!” said Dr. Lee.